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Q.1 What is culture? Discuss the characteristics of culture.


Meaning of Culture
The concept of Culture is about as old as civilization. The word culture is derived from the Latin word “cultura” which relates to cult or worship. In its broadest sense the term refers to the result of human interaction. It comprises the entire set of social norms and responses that condition people’s behaviour; it is acquired and inculcated, a set of rules and behaviour patterns that an individual learns but does not inherit at birth.
It enables people to make sense of their world. It is the complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and other capabilities acquired by a person as a member of society. In common parlance, culture is the acquired knowledge that people use to interpret experience and to generate social behaviour. Their knowledge forms values, creates attitudes, and influences behaviour. The knowledge of Concept of Culture is imperative for understanding human behaviour throughout the world including one’s own country.

Definition of Culture
Scholars have never been able to agree on a simple definition of culture. The task of understanding culture is complicated by a over abundance of definitions. Anthropologists and sociologists define culture as “ways of living” built-up by a group of human beings which are transmitted from one generation to another. A culture acts out its ways of living in the context of social institutions, including family, educational, religious, governmental and business institutions. Ralph Linton (1945:2) provides a Timeless definition of culture as the configuration of learned behaviour and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society. Or perhaps more appropriately ; “the way we do things around here”. So defined China has a culture – a commonality of beliefs, experiences, values and expectations – that sets it apart from Egypt, India, Poland or Mexico. In an international business, culture refers to acquired knowledge that people use to interpret, experience and generate social behaviour. This knowledge forms values, creates attitudes, and influences behaviour. Edward Taylor in his “Origins of Culture” hundred years ago defined culture as “ that complex whole which includes knowledge belief, art, morals, law, custom
and other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society.” Culture then develops through recurrent social relationships that form patterns that are eventually internalised by members of entire group. In other words the culture of the group or society is a set of values (shared beliefs), history, tradition, norms, mores and artifacts that the group hold in common.
Culture can also be defined as “a continuously changing totality of learned values and shared meanings, rituals, norms and traditions among the members of an organisation or society.” By values we mean abstract ideas about what a group believes to be good, right, and desirable. Put differently, values are shared assumption about how things ought to be. Values form the bedrock of a culture. They provide the context within which a society’s norms are established and justified. They may include a society’s attitude toward such concepts as individual freedom, democracy, truth, justice, honesty, loyalty, social obligation, collective responsibility, the role of women, love, sex, marriage and so on. Values are not just abstract concepts; they are invested with considerable emotional significance. People argue, fight, and even die over values such as
freedom. Values also often are reflected in the political and economic systems of a society. By norms we mean the social rules and guidelines that prescribes appropriate behaviour in particular situations. Norms are the social rules that govern people’s action toward one another. Norms can be sub-divided further into folkways and mores.

Folkways are the routine conventions of everyday life. Generally, folkways are actions of little moral significance. Rather folkways are social conventions concerning things such as the appropriate dress code in a particular situation, good social manners, eating with the correct utensils neighborly behaviour, and the life. While folkways define the way people are expected to behave if violated they are not usually considered to be evil or bad. Foreigners may initially be excused for violating folkways. On the other hand, mores are norms that are seen as central to the functioning of a society and to its social life. They have much greater significance than folkways. Accordingly, violating mores can bring serious retribution. However, there are many differences between culture as to what is perceived as mores. In America for example drinking Alcohol is widely accepted whereas in Saudi Arabia the consumption of Alcohol is viewed as
violating important social modes and punishable by imprisonment. The term society refers to a group of people who share a common set of values and norms. While society may be equivalent to a country, some countries harbor several “societies” (i.e. they support multiple culture) and some societies embrace more than one country.
Geert Hofstede, an expert on cross-cultural differences and management, defined culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another…. Culture, in this sense includes systems of values and values are among the building blocks of culture.” The Sociologists Zvi Namenwirth and Robert Weber considers culture as a system of ideas and argue that these ideas constitute design for living.
Taking both the definitions together culture can be understood as a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that when taken together constitute a design for living.
To sum up, culture consists of the following components :-
  1. basic beliefs; strongly held attitudes about important ideas (values);
        2. accepted standards of behaviour (norms);
3. the historical or traditional way of doing and thinking about things (history and tradition);
4. customs or rituals that the society/organisation believes in and following (mores);
5. common stories or folklores passed from one generation to another and
6. art, symbols, weapons, pottery and so on that are physical representations of the culture (art and artifacts).

Characteristics of Culture
Although there are many definitions of culture, the experts seem to agree on a number of characteristics of culture :
(1) Culture is learnt : Culture is not inherited. It is learnt through experience. People over time transmit the culture of their group from generation to generation.
(2) Culture is shared : The tenets of the culture are accepted by most members of the group. Culture is not specific to single individuals, but is shared by people who are members of particular groups, organisations and societies.
(3) Culture is transgenerational : Culture is passed on, in a cumulative process from one generation to the next. It is always passed on from one generation to another.
(4) Culture is inter-related : One part of the culture is deeply connected with another part, such as religion with marriage or business with social status.
(5) Culture is symoblic : It depends on individuals human capacity to symbolize or to use one thing to represent another.
(6) Culture is patterned : Culture possess structure and is integrated. Change in one aspect of culture causes changes in another.
(7) Culture is adoptive : Culture depends on the human capacity to adopt to change.
(8) Culture is descriptive : Culture defines the boundaries of different groups.

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